We Found the 10 Most Disgusting School Lunches Across the United States

When we send our kids to school, we expect them to get a healthy, balanced meal for lunch. But as it turns out, a lot of schools fall far short of what we’d consider “good” food — or even edible. You won’t believe some of the stuff kids across the United States have to eat. Steel your stomach for these gross school lunches. Don’t miss the stark difference between what our kids get and what other countries serve (Page 10).

1. This mystery mash hardly looks like food

School lunch mystery mush

We’re still not sure what this is. | Hunter Whitney via Twitter

Some students posted photos of their lunches on Twitter using the hashtag #Thanksmichelleobama. The hashtag nodded to a campaign the former first lady started to provide free school lunches to all students, regardless of income. As this meal demonstrates though, health did not always come first in the cafeteria. At least the kid also got an apple?

Next: The following meal does not look appetizing, either.

2. This student got a ball of refried … something

It’s unappetizing and unhealthy. | Jess Sency via Twitter

One girl tweeted a photo of her meal, which appears to include a scoop of something refried. If the school intended to serve healthy food, they might want to rethink that category. Refried beans (if we assume that’s what the picture shows) do provide a pretty good balance of protein and carbs. However, they also pack a wallop in the sodium department.

Next: This meal seems to lack a crucial element.

3. Where’s the beef?

School lunch hotdog bun cheese

Might as well go for the grilled cheese. | Betsy Ettinger via Twitter

This student’s vegetarian meal looks cost-effective for the school, but not particularly filling for the student. Cheese on a hot dog bun does not a meal make, not even with a side of what looks like tomato sauce. At least we also see some baby carrots, so this student will also get her Vitamin A.

Next: Call us crazy, but should chicken look like that inside?

4. We would not feed this chicken to the dog

While the chicken in this sandwich does look heartier than some other examples, it also has a strange color and texture. Fried chicken sandwiches do not rank high in the healthiest meals a kid can eat. Research shows that kids who eat a balance of fruits and vegetables, protein, and fiber with less fat do better in school. Looks like this student’s fatty mystery meat does not get an A.

Next: We can’t even guess what this lunch intended to represent.

5. Can anyone guess the origin of this substance?

School lunch mush

We’re not really sure what this is supposed to be. | Heather Jemison via Twitter

A parent posted this photo to Twitter, after realizing her students had truly disgusting meals at their school. The gloppy brown … something and what looks like faux cheese does not contain any of the healthy nutrients kids need to succeed. One researcher explained that the effects of eating good food at school also come immediately.

“Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class, and retain more information,” Sean Patrick Corcoran told The Atlantic. “Even when schools serve calorie-rich food on test day, students perform better on those tests.”

Next: The following student could also use this meal as construction material.

6. Noodles and glue — it’s what’s for lunch

School lunch noodles

Pasta shouldn’t defy gravity. | Logan Tacker via Twitter

One student posted a video in which their pasta and white sauce sticks to the tray, even when held upside-down. Even if we ignore the bland, nutrient-devoid state, noodles should not have anti-gravity properties. And some new information shows that schools can shell out just a little coin to raise test scores through healthy chow.

A new study calculated the average price per meal in common vendor contracts. It then estimated the cost of in-house school meals based on National School Lunch Program reimbursements. As a result, it found that it cost about $222 per student per year to switch from in-house school-lunch preparation to a healthier lunch vendor. That resulted in students’ test scores rising by about 4% on average.

Next: This unidentifiable block did not start this student’s day off right.

7. Whoever can decipher this photo wins a bite

School lunch breakfast casserole

Mystery casserole? | Stephen Wheadon via Twitter

Despite evidence that breakfast really does rank as the most important meal of the day, many students start out the day hungry. This picture shows that some students get mysterious blocks for their school breakfast. While a picture can tell a thousand words, we feel pretty confident that no breakfast “casserole” should have both yellow and gray tinges.

Next: The following lunch looks more like Fancy Feast.

8. Can you tell what kind of meat this is?

School lunch beef

This is a head scratcher. | Josh Russell via Twitter

One student posted a photo that gives the term “mystery meat” a whole new meaning. And while school lunches have never exactly registered as “gourmet,” this one also appears devoid of any of the healthy elements experts recommend. Unless, of course, we count that tomato sauce as a vegetable.

Next: This composite photo also says it all.

9. Four meals we would never eat

School lunch four lunches

None of these are acceptable. | 8News WRIC Richmond via Twitter

Between the questionable-colored chicken, two sad breadsticks, what could pass for mop water, and some sort of glop, these school lunches look pretty gross. Students also may not have chosen healthier options, but they also get a pitiful amount of food for their bucks.

It bears noting that USDA guidelines implemented over the last few years include limits on calories, fat, sugar, and sodium for all food and drinks sold during the school day for 100,000 schools across the country. Some schools, apparently, use those guidelines to restrict the amount of food they serve growing teens.

Next: This school lunch comparison also points out one stark difference.

10. Kids in other countries eat better at school than ours

France school lunch

France gets a three course meal. | Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images

One social media user showed the difference between American school lunches and other countries’ in one startling tweet. The U.S. tray features a mushy pile of “green” beans, what looks like a limp hot pocket, a roll, a single slice of lemon, and a soda.

By contrast, the supposed Italy photo shows a robust bunch of grapes, a filet of salmon on a bed of greens, a reasonable portion of pasta, a hunk of crust bread, and a tomato and feta salad. Now, which would you rather eat?

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